Welcome to the New Normal — a Land of Labels, Distortions, and Misinformation — Seven Realities Nobody Wants to Talk About, Starting with No. 1 — by Todd Macfarlane

Seven Truths about What is Going on in the American West that No One in the Government or Mainstream Media Want to Acknowledge or Talk About – Starting with Reality No. 1, the New Normal in a Land of Morally Superior Labels, Distortions, Misinformation, and Guilt by Association.

Note: This is the first part of a multi-part series about Seven Realities in the West that the Federal Government and the Mainstream Media don’t seem to want to acknowledge or talk about.  When the series is complete, we will combine it all in one piece. In the meantime, you can read about Realities 2,3 & 4 Here.  You can read about Realities 5&6 (the Laws of Prior Appropriation & Beneficial Use Here, and you can read about Reality No. 7 (Ranching is Actually Good for the Environment) Here.

Bundy Malheur 1Background

In case you aren’t aware, unusual things have been happening in Oregon in 2016.  Although it is unclear whether any of this has even registered in the consciousness of most Americans, earlier this year there was a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon.  The occupation came to be known as the “Oregon Standoff,” which, because of the people involved, was considered a sequel to the “Bundy Standoff,” in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014.  Depending on your perspective, and who you ask, the Oregon Standoff was considered to be an “armed occupation.”  Oregon Governor Kate Brown called on the federal government for a “swift resolution,” insisting that they end the occupation “as quickly as possible.”  And Oregon Senator Ron Wyden implored the FBI to “stop the virus from spreading.”  Consequently, the Malheur occupation ended following the law enforcement shooting death of LaVoy Finicum, and the ultimate arrest of some 26 other alleged consprators, most of whom are still awaiting trial, while some have entered into plea deal arrangements with the federal government.  At this point, the first Oregon Standoff trial is scheduled to start next week, on September 7, 2016.

If we re-wind a few months, however, on March 8, 2016, Oregon officials held a press conference where they discussed the outcome of their investigation into the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum, and cleared state law Bretzing 2enforcement officers of any criminal wrongdoing in his death. Toward the end of the press conference, FBI Special Agent Greg Bretzing joined the discussion. After acknowledging investigation of an alleged coverup of the FBI’s involvement in the incident, on what he claimed was a positive note, Bretzing said hundreds of federal operatives had already withdrawn from the area, and “life is getting back to normal” in Harney County. Exactly what does that mean? What is normal at this point? What is the new normal?

Part of what the new normal apparently means is that now LaVoy Finicum is dead, and Cliven and Ammon Bundy are in jail, awaiting trial, “Bundy-bashing” has emerged as a full-fledged sport. And I’m going to coin another phrase: “Predatory Journalism.”  The practice is nothing new, but it has taken on a whole new meaning in this case.

There may be plenty of reasons to disagree with the Bundys, but the complex issues involved deserve more than a one-sided, a single-dimensional approach, pretending there aren’t any other sides to the story. Contrary to the prevailing narrative, with Bundys on one side of the spectrum and the Federal Government on the other, this isn’t a black and white, single-dimensional equation.  Even if one perceives Bundys’ actions to be all wrong, does that mean the Federal Government is always and completely right?

Stanton Gleave 1Part of the new normal is perceived guilt by association.  Despite all the the things the government and mainstream media don’t want to talk about, among the things everyone does seem to want to talk and write stories about is Utah rancher Stanton Gleave. If you Google “Utah rancher images” Stanton’s face is in many of them. But unlike Cliven Bundy and LaVoy Finicum, he doesn’t have a Facebook page. He isn’t calling anyone to arms. He hasn’t been evangelizing any personal message. He doesn’t text or Twitter. He doesn’t even have a smart phone. And he didn’t go anywhere near Harney County, Oregon.

Stanton Gleave presides over a sprawling family sheep and cattle ranching operation headquartered in rural Piute County, Utah – which some have suggested (and perhaps even hoped) would become the location of the next stand-off between ranchers in the West and the Federal Government. But the story – and corresponding realities – have been seriously twisted.  We’ve talked about this before.

Stanton Gleave Gary AllenIn the last few months Stanton Gleave and his pictures have been featured in multiple mainstream media stories everywhere from NPR and The Guardian to the Salt Lake Tribune. He was also requested to testify before the Utah State Legislature. So, why all the attention?

First of all, everyone seems to want to cast Stanton Gleave as the leader of the next wave of so-called “radical extremists,” who many seem to enjoy attempting to label as “domestic terrorists.” Whether it is true or not, the Salt Lake Tribune claims that back in 2014 or before, Gleave had made a mutual pact with Bundys and/or LaVoy Finicum to help support and defend them if they were attacked based on their widely-publicized step of terminating their grazing permits with the BLM.

But the even bigger reason for most of the recent attention Gleave is getting seems to stem from a January 23, 2016 Range Rights Workshop in Cedar City, Utah, before LaVoy Finicum was killed. During that meeting an image was leaked, via Twitter, showing Stanton Gleave, along with this sons and some other ranchers, Piute Ranchers Wanted 1with papers in their hands. According to the tweet, they had just signed papers terminating their own federal grazing permits. Some have called them “pledges.”

The reality is this too was nothing more than misinformation.  The completely unauthorized image was the unintentional product of a staged, media photo-op, intended solely to see what kind of reaction it would draw. It’s the sort of pomp and circumstance scenario that happens all the time in many situations. In previous pieces, such optics have been referred to as pageantry — in some cases Standoff Pageantry.  The problem is few people seem to be able to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. Although there was no actual substance to the assertions made, it certainly drew a reaction. The reality is for all practical intents and purposes, the paper could have been a blank napkin.

Before you could say “Tweet me,” however, an over-eager journalist with a separate agenda, who organizers thought could be trusted, tweeted a full frontal facial image of Stanton Gleave and other ranchers with papers in their hands, heralding what was claimed to be the next round of terminations of federal grazing permit contracts, joinder with the Oregon Standoff, and essentially a full declaration of war on the federal government. Everything about that Tweet was a gross exaggeration and distortion of reality. But distortions, fueled by social media, seem to be the order of the day on all sides. For good examples of distortions on the other side of the fence, consider the multiple articles Chris Zinda has written on this subject, and his treatment of the role of social media in the whole equation.

New Normal 1

While the mainstream media seems to be obsessed with distorting the truth about these particular issues, and sensationalizing labels, they are completely ignoring and refusing to talk about some very fundamental truths, including the following seven realities about the true backstory and what is happening in the West today.

label-maker-1Reality No 1. The War of Words and the Power – and Irony — of Labels and Misinformation

Amidst the polarizing environment of this presidential election year, morally and intellectually superior labels and misinformation have become the major weapons of choice in “discussing” these issues, coupled with perceived guilt by association.  And the irony is becoming nothing short of comical. We have addressed these blatant distortions on prior occasions.

On one hand, in this country the U.S. Constitution is considered to be the supreme law of the land.  In cases of conflict between statutes and constitutional provisions, the Constitution always takes precedent.  All our elected leaders, including Governor Brown and Senator Wyden, as well as law enforcement officers, military personnel, and some government officers and employees take an oath of office. In that oath they specifically swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and in some cases the constitution of the state in which they are operating.

Pocket Const Dom Terr 1On the other hand, for a full seven months this year, reference to the U.S. Constitution was considered to be politically incorrect. Self-proclaimed patriots, and so-called constitutionalists were automatically labeled as extremists, militants, and domestic terrorists. They represented the “virus” Senator Wyden was referring to.  Utterance of words like “life, liberty and property,” or simply “property rights,” were labeled as fighting words. Pocket constitutions were labeled as dangerous weapons, and a symbol of extremism.  According to such distortions, even the American flag came to be viewed as a symbol of extremism.

According to the morally and  intellectually superior equation of the new normal, interest in the constitution equaled extremism. Patriotism equaled militancy. Never mind that public officials like Senator Wyden take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Never mind that what started the whole situation in Oregon was an effort to bring attention to the injustices being inflicted upon Dwight and Steven Hammond, and the increasing evidence that they had been railroaded. Never mind the fact that we give lip service to freedom of speech, expression, assembly and redress in this country – depending on who you are, and which side of the fence you’re on. But a big part of the new normal is labeling and purported guilt by association.

In encouraging the FBI and Oregon State Police to undertake an operation to “stop the virus from spreading,” Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was giving expression to the realities of the new normal: Anyone claiming feelings of patriotism or belief in the constitution are viewed to be radical, extreme terrorists, constituting a virus that must be stopped from spreading, by bloodshed, if necessary.

All that changed to some extent, and the water became considerably muddier when, during an unscripted Khizr Kahn 1moment during the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan held up a pocket constitution and made reference to it.  Not to mention the whole dust-up about the initially intended conspicuous absence of an American flag in the house.  Since then, the labels have been flying just as fast and furious as ever, but reference to the constitution and display of a pocket constitution by someone other than a perceived “right-wing radical nutjob,” as well as sudden appearance of a flag, really upset the previous narrative, and enlivened the debate.  Prior to that, anyone who had a pocket constitution or a flag was considered a radical right-wing extremist nut-job, if not an outright terrorist.  Asking questions or making reference to the constitution were considered to be acts of sedition.  Public school resource officers were pressuring students to tattle on their classmates who talk about the constitution, or express feelings of patriotism. But having a pocket constitution emerge in the National Democratic Convention, has definitely thrown the whole narrative a big curve — and caused the sale of pocket constitutions to go through the roof.

In the fever-pitched environment of the polarizing presidential campaign and the current lead-up to the first Oregon Standoff trial starting in approximately one week, the war of words and labels is in full swing.  RANGE magazine discussed this war of words and images on the modern media and social media battlefield in its summer edition. See The Shadow Force, p. 38.  Much of it can be characterized as nothing short of “hate speech.”  The hate and vitriol being expressed by the vocal minority on each side of the equation is likewise nothing short of ironic.  How anyone involved in these discussions can call anyone on the other side of the fence “extremist” with a straight face is a true feat.

Just to help illustrate the point, we’ll share a few recent social media comments from the respective echo chambers.

ONE SIDE:

“The only thing i agree with trump about is waterboarding the Bundys                                                           . . . “ISIS stands for what they believe too.                                                                                           These men and women look no different to me.

“Give a sleazy man a platform and he’ll abuse it.

Ambush Oregon 1

                                                                                                                  OTHER SIDE:

“[LaVoy Finicum] was ambushed on a desolate stretch of Oregon Highway, murdered, shot nine times in the face, with his hands in the air.”

*Alert*  Early this morning Ryan was beat and drug out of his cell by jail guard thugs and tortured.

                                                                                                                                                   

BACK TO THE OTHER SIDE:

“The wives continue to spread lies to incite for support and funds . . .                                                    They lie about EVERYTHING

“The wives have no backbone, are too dumb                                                                                          do anything but take orders, and . . .                                                                                                      they have empty headed.kids, learning 2 play victim

“They PREY on those “weak minded fools” with their yelling of “fire”

“Get enough people 2 believe delusion…poof…no longr delusional.

This is an undeniable reality of the new normal that the mainstream media has exacerbated, but doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge or talk much about.

Stanton Gleave 2Meanwhile Back at the Stanton Gleave Ranch

And that brings us back to Stanton Gleave and his family ranching operation. There are a growing number of people in this country who have genuine malice for people like Gleaves who make their living producing food, and their only alleged/perceived crime is that they utilize federal grazing allotments to do it.

Gleaves live in rural Piute County, Utah, on the very Southeast edge of the Great Basin. Like rural economies in other counties and communities throughout the West that have been economically crippled as a result of federal land-use policies, in Piute County other employment and economic opportunities are slim to none. Livestock agriculture is essentially the only industry. Yet at a time when the future is becoming bleaker and bleaker for family agriculture virtually everywhere, there are plenty in the next generations of the Gleave Family who look forward to carrying on the family ranching operation. In addition to Stanton and his wife, several sons and their families, as well as a brother and several nephews are all involved in the family operation. They are all dependent upon the operation for a livelihood, and look to the ranch as a means of surviving in the future. The obstacles to their survival are many: Weather, Markets, Economy, Predators – you name it. But they will tell you, without reservation, that the single biggest obstacle, and the one they are most concerned about, is micromanagement and overreach by the federal government. And that is a reality that all their local, state and even federal elected leaders seem to completely agree with as well.

But that is also an issue that many in the federal government and the mainstream media seem to think should simply disappear now that LaVoy Finicum is dead, Cliven and Ammon Bundy are in jail, and life is getting “back to normal.” In this case, however, it’s a New Normal, and the old saying about “if it ain’t broke . . . .” simply doesn’t seem to fit. That is a reality that no one else seems to want to talk about.

Read about the Other Realities:

Realities 2, 3 & 4

Realities 5 & 6

Reality No. 7

RANGE / RANGEFIRE! — Addressing Issues Facing the West / Spreading America’s Cowboy Spirit Beyond the Outback